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Sword-Born
Jennifer Roberson
DAW Books, 410 pages


Jim Burns
Sword-Born
Jennifer Roberson
Jennifer Roberson was born in Kansas City, Missouri, but has lived in Arizona since 1957. She has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Northern Arizona University, with a major in British history. Prior to becoming a full-time writer in 1985, Jennifer was employed as an investigative reporter for a morning daily, and as an advertising copywriter for a major marketing company. She has published dozens of 19 novels, including the 8-volume Chronicles of the Cheysuli, about a race of shape-changers and the multi-volume Sword-Dancer series.
Jennifer Roberson Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Golden Key
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

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Tiger and Del are sword-dancers that have both broken their vows. They are without a place to go, unwelcome both in the north, where Del came from, and in the south, where Tiger was born. One day a man seems to think that Tiger is from his own land of Skandi...and Del agrees that her lover and friend bears an amazing resemblance to the man. Tiger isn't so sure, but he agrees to get on a ship and sail to Skandi, and perhaps learn the truth of his heritage. A group of Renegadas force their ship onto the reefs, and the only survivors are Del, Tiger, the stud (Tiger's obstinate horse), and the Captain. The Renegadas take them prisoner, and Tiger and Del must find a way to pay their ransom or be made slaves. Discovering their reasons for going to Skandi, Prima, the captain of the ship, hatches a plan. Tiger can pretend to be a certain rich old heiress's lost son... Prima will get her ransom for the two, Tiger will become rich when the old woman dies, and Prima will get to thumb her nose at her father. She proposes it as a win-win situation, but Tiger sees it as a no-choice situation, and is less than thrilled.

At first, the plan seems to go well. The Renegadas hold Del to make sure Tiger goes to meet the Metri who might be his grandmother. The First Mate, Nihko, leads him to one of the most beautiful houses on the island, and along the journey he discovers that Nihko is more than a sailor. He is also a priest, a possessor of powerful magic. When they meet the Metri, Tiger does not lie to her... and because of this, and his reaction to magic, she is convinced to try and prove that Tiger is indeed her long lost grandson.

Reading Sword-Born was like slipping into a comfortable bathrobe, something warm and good and beloved. I have read all the previous books in this series, and watched Tiger and Del grow and change into stronger, better characters. I love the relationship between these two. Tiger is a Southron man, somewhat chauvinistic of mind set (although he's getting better), a slave who earned his freedom. He has great determination, wit, and a wonderful sense of humor. He loves his bascha very much, I think, though he does not say so. We hear the story through him, since the story is first person Tiger, and grow to like him immensely despite... or maybe because of... his weaknesses. Del came to the series as a cold Northerner, no less determined than he, strong, incredibly intelligent, her ice has just recently begun to melt. She too cares deeply for him, to the point where she has sworn to give her life to save his. They balance each other out, and they work together wonderfully. They also often discuss the themes in this book... their arguments are really what brings the themes to the forefront. Mostly these themes are about gender equality, and, refreshingly, it is our main character who is in the wrong while Del explains her viewpoint... and Tiger relents. Another interesting thing is that just because Tiger is getting over his culturally ingrained views on women, or because he is just slowly trying to decide what he thinks about Prima's open homosexuality (a facet that probably wouldn't be a problem if Prima wasn't after Del) doesn't make him a bad person. It makes him human, and despite what anyone might think, he is still good hearted.

But the fights about gender are not really the main part of the story. The charm of Sword-Born, beside the wondrous camaraderie between the two swords people, is the world that Jennifer Roberson has created. She creates an intricately structured world filled with politics and culture, magic and miracles. You can breathe the dust of the sand, feel the waves under rock the ship under your feet. She weaves scenes that are really quite awesome, and through it all there are several interesting and complex characters.

The books in this series are Sword-Dancer, Sword-Singer, Sword-Maker, Sword-Breaker, and just out in January, the sequel to this book, Sword-Sworn.

Copyright © 2002 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at www.apenandfire.com.


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